Hotel plans feel cut off from neighborhood, say community groups

Plans for a hotel and attached parking ramp at the United Village development could be headed to the St. Paul Planning Commission as soon as March 15. The complicated project design requires a conditional use permit and eight variances. That’s a large if not unprecedented number of variances for an area project.
But for neighbors and area district councils, the issue is not so much the variances and the permit, but how such a massive structure will fit in along University Avenue and in the adjacent Hamline-Midway neighborhood.
The request won approval from the Planning Commission Zoning Committee March 7. The committee voted to approve the permit and all eight variances, adding more conditions to two of the variance requests. No one appeared at the hearing to speak against the project.
The project is in District 13 Union Park but is across University Avenue from District 11 Hamline Midway, so both district councils are weighing in. UPDC’s full board approved its letter March 6, after a land use committee meeting in February. The district councils have been meeting with project advisor Mike Hahm to review hotel details and get updates on United Village.
The Hamline Midway Coalition (HMC) development committee thought the zoning requests are reasonable and is excited to see redevelopment activities on the superblock that includes the Allianz Field Major League Soccer stadium. But support for the request before the Planning Commission asks hinges in having design details reconsidered.
HMC wants to see site drawings in relation to other neighborhood infrastructure and assets, and assurances that the neighborhood was being factored in and is accessible to the building. “
In a statement, the HMC committee said, “Our committee thinks that well-designed integration of the hotel into the surrounding neighborhood is critical for the success of this individual development as well as the broader goal of creating a vibrant and pedestrian-friendly University Avenue. We urge the developer to reconsider the design and present the updates to our committee at a future meeting.”
“As currently presented, we think the development does not take advantage of potential connections with the surrounding neighborhood. Design approaches such as adding a vehicular street between University Avenue and the new building, failing to screen the parking ramp with active uses at the street level, and orienting the hotel lobby away from University Avenue all serve to cut off the proposed hotel from the neighborhood.” Another concern is that the lack of clear definition of pedestrian bike connections to the surrounding neighborhood are not clearly defined or designed on the plans.
Union Park District Council (UPDC) and its land use committee support some but not all of the variance requests and the permit. Committee members criticized the building design, with comments including “It stinks” and “Fire your architect.”
Populous, which designed Allianz Field, is the project architect. “That is about as non-urban a façade as you could put on University Avenue,” said committee member Paul Bakke. While he and other committee members welcome the idea of a hotel on University, they dislike the design of it and the attached parking ramp.
Others are just frustrated with the slow pace of development on the block bounded by Pascal Street and St. Anthony, Snelling and University avenues. “I personally don’t like hearing a lot about revitalizing an area that used to be full of businesses before the property owners demolished the buildings and they became empty lots full of trash,” said committee member Lisa Nelson.
After much discussion UPDC members said they could support some variances but lack information on others. And while city staff recommended approval of the developer request, each is with a set of conditions. There are 40 conditions total, between the permit and the eight variances.
Variances are for various window, door and façade design requirements; and setbacks. The conditional use permit is to allow a building height of 90 feet.
Find the Planning Commission Zoning Committee staff report, a project summary, staff recommendations and correspondence about the project at
Share your thoughts on the development on Thursday, March 14, 7-8:30 p.m. at Allianz Field, Stadium Club. The meeting is being organized by the Hamline Midway Coalition and the Union Park District Council.


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  • Sunshinedaydream

    I've tried locating this story on X or Facebook but it seems elusive.

    This project was going to pass if people objected or not. I tried warning people of the community 6 or more yrs ago.

    It's just like the summit project.

    This is all Metropolitan Council. We no longer have a say in what happens in this city. Metropolitan council has their Master Plan on their website even. It's "approved" EVERY TEN YEARS. it showed this project well in advance. No one knows about meeting days or opposition voicing venues because it's not being talked about until it's too late.

    Now it's too late!

    Toni Carter NEEDS to be removed from Metropolitan Council!

    Sunday, March 24 Report this